Last week I found out I’d had two abstracts accepted for oral presentations at the Microbiology Society (formerly SGM) Annual conference in March. I submitted two abstracts, hoping I’d be accepted for two posters so two talks is a little daunting! My accepted abstracts got me thinking about conference funding and where you can find it.
The conference you’re attending
The first place to look for funding is the actual conference you’re planning to attend, for the Microbiology Society conference I’ve applied directly to the society through their conference grants. The society strongly supports the attendance of PhD students and early career researchers at their annual conference with grants of up to £500, and you’re able to apply for these every year. With the conference being held in Liverpool this year I’ve applied for enough funding to cover my train ticket, hotel for the duration of the conference and also my registration fee. Last year the conference was held in Birmingham and I’m happy to report I won a conference grant and had my costs covered. Not all conferences are able to offer the same generous level of funding for students as the Microbiology Society, so where else can you look?
Obviously this overlaps with the option above, but it is slightly different. In addition to holding their own conferences societies will often support your attendance at other conferences through grants. Just like above, you have to apply, giving the reasons why this particular conference will be beneficial to your development as a researcher. Travel grants, like these offered by the Microbiology Society, often come with a few more criteria than the conference grants above, for example you might not be able to apply every year. The amounts offered often vary depending on location and you will need to be an up to date member of the society to be eligible to apply.
In addition to being a member of the Microbiology society, I’m also a member of the Royal Society of Biology, The Genetics Society and the Society for Applied Microbiology (Sfam). All of these societies offer grants for conference and training attendance for PhD students. Obviously these societies might not suit you, but there’s likely to be at least one that does. Have a look and find out what’s available.
The University of Leicester has something called the Street fund, I’ve always struggled to find online information about the Street fund but by going to the Biology School office I was able to get the right paperwork to be able to apply. Last year I did and was lucky enough to receive partial funding to attend a conference in Italy (I funded the rest through an SGM grant and the funds allocated to be as part of my PhD). The Street fund is initially reserved for travel to other locations for learning new skills (e.g. visiting another lab) but conferences will be considered. Just like the society grants you need to write an application, which is then considered by a committee. If you receive funding you’ll need to write a report afterwards explaining how the money was beneficial to your PhD progress. I don’t think the Street fund is well publicised but it’s a great resource if you know it’s there.
So far my supervisor hasn’t had to pay for any of the conferences I’ve attended (4) and I hope to be able to fund another two this year through winning grants. Joining societies is a really great way to gain access to funds for travel (as well as other benefits) so I’d encourage you to find ones relevant to your area of research, but also look for funding in other places. As you progress, funding for conferences will become increasingly more difficult to come by, so take advantage of it while you’re a PhD student!